MINNEAPOLIS -- They listened to the talk all week, and they seethed. They heard they had backed into the playoffs and didn't really deserve to be in with a 9-7 record. They heard the Minnesota Vikings wanted to play them.
They waited, they plotted and they worked themselves into an emotional frenzy. Coach Joe Gibbs showed them a memorable scene from "Patton" the night before the game. Gary Clark gave an emotional speech reminding them they were the defending Super Bowl champions. Charles Mann wore his Super Bowl ring as another reminder. Gibbs had the players so involved that he let the offensive linemen call the first two running plays.
They invaded the Metrodome yesterday and took out all their frustration on the Vikings, thrashing them, 24-7, to advance to the second round of the playoffs Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.
They did it with a patchwork lineup that didn't include cornerback Darrell Green, who didn't even make the trip because of a bruised heel, or running back Ricky Ervins, who had a sprained ankle.
Brian Mitchell stepped up and had the game of his life, running for 109 yards, including 38 yards on a fake punt that may have been the key play of the game. He returned three punts for 70 yards, including a 54-yarder, returned a kickoff 14 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards.
Add it all up and he gained 209 yards. But this wasn't a one-man show. The Redskins dominated all aspects of the game.
The Vikings (11-6), who made the mistake of getting the Redskins into the playoffs by beating the Green Bay Packers, 27-7, last week, trailed in first downs, 24-9; total yardage, 358-148; and time of possession, 42:43 to 17:17.
As Clark said, "We played Redskins football. We played the way we did last year."
Offensive tackle Jim Lachey, who didn't play in October when the Redskins escaped with a 15-13 win at Minnesota, said, "I started getting fired up last Sunday when I heard [CBS-TV analyst] Dan Fouts say Minnesota wants us. That kind of burned me. Hey, they have no respect for the Super Bowl champs. They wanted us. Well, they got us."
They neutralized the Minnesota pass rush by carrying the ball 47 times for 196 yards, and the defense confused inexperienced quarterback Sean Salisbury, who completed only six passes, was intercepted twice and sacked four times -- three times by Fred Stokes.
"We're back," said offensive lineman Joe Jacoby as he walked into the locker room.
Not all the way back. San Francisco is next. If the Redskins upset the 49ers, they'll have to stay on the road to beat one of three teams -- Dallas, New Orleans or Philadelphia -- to get to the Super Bowl. They happened to lose during the regular season to those three teams on the road. But the Redskins like to stress that these are the playoffs.
Defensive lineman Charles Mann said, "People were talking about us backing into the playoffs. We were tired of what people said. We're the Super Bowl champs."
As he put on his Super Bowl ring in front of his locker, he said, "I have this to kind of remind me of it, OK? So, I wore it this weekend. I very seldom wear it. I wore it because I want to remember what great things we did last year and how it can be repeated if we just keep our focus."
Clark said, "We heard what everybody was saying. We heard what our own people back in D.C. were saying. That really upset us to be in our hometown and have people say you're really not worth anything because you snuck in the back door. It wasn't no back door. That's how the system works. The system put us in the playoffs. We played good enough football to get us in the playoffs."
Of course, the Redskins raised the doubts by losing their final two regular-season games and four of their last seven.
One of the differences yesterday was Salisbury. He was making only his fifth NFL start, and it came against a defense put $H together by Richie Petitbon, the Redskins' master strategist.
It was no contest.
Salisbury completed a 42-yard pass to Cris Carter to set up Terry Allen's 1-yard touchdown run on the Vikings' first drive, and that was it.
They got 79 yards on that drive and 69 the rest of the game, including just nine yards in the second half when they had the ball for only 4:38. On their first drive, they had it for 4:55.
"It was the calls; I think we mixed it up," said cornerback Martin May hew, who came back from a broken forearm to start. "We dogged [blitzed] sometimes when they expected us to play zone. We zoned when they expected us to dog. We did some three-deep zones, which we hadn't done a lot lately. I think it kind of caught him [Salisbury] off guard."
Salisbury said, "There are no answers. They just outplayed us when the money was on the table."